In this “Is It Primal?” series of posts I’ve already scrutinized sprouts, cashews, sunflower butter, chocolate milk and a couple dozen other foods for their suitability in a healthy human diet. Today, I’m covering Ezekiel bread, the sprouted grain amalgamation favored by conventional health nuts; V8, the tomato juice with a little vegetable juice mixed in; edamame, the little kid of the soybean family; mezcal, tequila’s mysterious older brother; and tigernuts, which aren’t what you probably think they are.
Ready to go? Let’s do it:
Ezekiel bread is the stuff that you’d be forced to eat peanut butter and jelly on whenever you went over to your friend-with-the-hippie-parents’ house. The bread would be made from sprouted grains, the peanut butter would be sprouted, and even the strawberry seeds in the strawberry jam would be sprouted. Back then, you just wanted some Wonderbread and Jiffy, but now? Now that you’re health conscious, grain wary, and can rattle off a laundry list of anti-nutrients at a moment’s notice, you see that telltale orange package in the bread section of the Whole Foods and wonder if maybe it’s a decent choice for those times you want to splurge with some buttered bread. So, is it?
Kinda. One study found that eating sprouted grain breads (not Ezekiel, but similar to it) reduced the blood sugar response and increases the glucagon response when compared to eating unsprouted breads, 11-grain, 12-grain, white, or sourdough. That’s pretty good… for a bread. But it’s still bread. I’d like to see it matched up against a lack of bread.
Plus, sprouting might take care of some or most of the phytic acid, but it doesn’t break down the gluten. And with the first ingredient being whole wheat, and other major ingredients including barley and spelt, there’s going to be a significant amount of gluten remaining in the finished product. Some might be degraded, but not all of it. I’d suspect that gluten sensitive people will react “better” to Ezekiel bread, not “well.” Not enough to justify eating it, in my opinion. Celiacs, of course, should avoid it altogether.
Verdict: Not Primal, but possibly better than white bread (and whole grain bread, for that matter).
All your vegetable needs in a can – what’s not to love?
First, the imbalanced sodium/potassium ratio. I have nothing against salt, but it’s fairly well-accepted that an imbalance between sodium and potassium intake is one of the factors involved in developing hypertension. Since one of the best reasons to eat vegetables is to get enough potassium to balance out the sodium you get elsewhere, drinking V8 for the potassium is kinda like eating salmon cooked in soybean oil for the omega-3s. Sure, you’ll technically get some DHA and EPA, but you’ll also get an equal amount of linoleic acid.
Second, seeing as how V8 100% vegetable juice is actually 87% tomato juice (from concentrate), it’s more accurate to say V8 provides all your tomato juice needs in a can. Which is totally fine, but it’s not an effective replacement for your celery, spinach, beet, carrot, lettuce, parsley, or watercress needs. I’m actually a fan of tomato juice, even the pasteurized, reconstituted type. Rather than render it nutritionally void, pasteurization actually increases the lycopene – a potent antioxidant that can help prevent sunburns, among other qualities – content of tomato products (including juice). V8 is great for tomato juice, not “vegetables.”
Verdict: Primal – it doesn’t contain added sugar or weird ingredients – but it doesn’t replace actual vegetables.
Edamame have several strikes agianst it, right off the bat. It’s soy, which contains potent phytoestrogens, isoflavones that interact with estrogen receptors in the body. It’s a legume. It’s unfermented, unsprouted, and unsoaked. If it’s being served in the United States, it’s likely genetically modified. So, shall I strike it off the list and move on to the next one? No, of course not. That’s not what we do here.
There are actually some “better” things about edamame when you compare them to other forms of unfermented soy:
Edamame are young soy beans, still in the pods. They are not eaten raw, but they don’t require a lot of cooking. A light steam (or run through the microwave, as sushi restaurants do) will sufficiently tenderize the little beans. These aren’t hardy, difficult-to-digest dried beans. They’re more like green peas or green beans, which I previously gave the stamp of approval.
Edamame actually have drastically lower levels of phytoestrogens than mature soybeans. One study found that the phytoestrogen content of edamame samples ranged from 0.02% to 0.12%, while mature soybean samples ranged from 0.16% to 0.25%. The gulf widens when you consider that edamame are a snack, eaten sparingly, while mature soybeans are usually converted into tofu, soymilk, and other products that people consume in large amounts.
I couldn’t find solid data on phytic acid levels in edamame, but that could be an indication of researchers’ utter lack of concern for the levels of phytic acid in edamame. I’d imagine that the phytic acid situation is much like the phytic acid situation in other young legumes like green peas and green beans: not very dire.
While I wouldn’t make it a regular part of my diet, edamame appears to be relatively benign as an occasional snack. Just don’t eat bucketfuls, don’t make it baby’s first food, and don’t get into edamame pancakes or some silliness like that.
Verdict: Not Primal, but don’t stress over a couple handfuls at a sushi restaurant.
To my knowledge, there have been no double-blind, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed clinical trials comparing the health effects of roasted agave liquor, or mezcal, and steamed agave liquor, also known as tequila. Not every dietary item comes with a litany of Pubmed references, unfortunately. Anecdotes, oftentimes powerful ones, are available – especially when it comes to liquor. I have one about mezcal, believe it or not.
I like my wine, but I usually stop after a glass or two or three. I’ve never been a “liquor guy,” though. Scotch, bourbon, rum, vodka? While I can vaguely distinguish between the good stuff and the bad stuff, I’m not a connoisseur. For tequila, though, I make an exception. I love good tequila (and to a lesser extent, good rum). I don’t drink it much, but I really enjoy it when I do. So when I was in Puerto Vallarta some years ago and got to talking to a crusty old ex-pat in a restaurant near the beach, and he mentioned “illegal mezcal,” I was intrigued. According to the ex-pat (and confirmed via Wiki), true mezcal must come from certain states, like Durango, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, and a few others, while any mezcal produced in unsanctioned areas is illegal. Most bootleg mezcal is dreadful, but the mezcal my new companion could get, he assured me, was “real quality, small-batch stuff.”
So we went. It was unlabeled, pulled straight from the oak barrel where it had been aging for almost four years, and dark as amber. Smoky, fruity, and smoother than any tequila I’d ever had, this mezcal was incredible. I wish I could have taken some home.
Is it Primal? I don’t know I have a definite answer, but if you ever get the chance to try an aged mezcal like I did, don’t even consider passing it up. But yes, for my money, apart from mead it is as Primal as liquor can get. It comes from a cactus, rather than a grain. It’s fermented. If you get mezcal anejo (aged), it will have likely picked up some antioxidant activity from the oak barrels, like whiskeys and other oak-aged spirits do. The roasting process might give it a few more advanced glycation end products (AGES), but it’s not like you’re drinking mezcal on a regular basis (right?). And roasting certain foods, like coffee, actually increases antioxidants, so it might be a wash. Skip the clear stuff designed to get you drunk and fast, and go for the dark stuff that’s had care put into it.
A single touch of the spacebar makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it? Imagine if I were to investigate the Primality of tiger nuts. I mean, there are valid arguments on both sides. We eat beef, goat, and lamb testicles on a regular basis (what, you mean I’m the only one?), so why not tiger testes? On the other hand, tigers are carnivores, and we generally don’t eat mammalian carnivores. They’re also endangered, which isn’t a commentary on the health of eating a tiger’s nuts, but still – can’t you find something else to eat? Sheesh.
But this is about tigernuts, not tiger nuts. Tigernuts are a kind of tuber found in a species of sedge native to warm temperate and subtropical regions of the Northern hemisphere. In ancient Egypt, they were pounded and formed into cakes. Today, they’re eaten raw, soaked in water to remove bitter tannins and phytonutrients, dried in the sun to turn into flour, or roasted. Tigernut tubers are fairly high in fat, with most of it being monounsaturated, specifically oleic acid. They contain ample levels of soluble fiber, which can be helpful for feeding gut flora.
Although one study found that tigernuts contain a decent amount of antinutrient factors (some oxalates, saponins, and a tiny amount of phytate), those were mostly mitigated by the roasting process, and a group of lab animals who ate a raw tigernut-rich diet thrived (PDF).
That’s it for today, folks. As always, keep sending in questionable foods, either through the contact form or in the comment section of this post. Thanks for reading!
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.